Delta named 'Big Brother'

Delta Air Lines remains under attack from privacy activists because of its involvement with a much-contested computer system that would screen passengers to assess their terrorism risk.

On April 3, the company won one of Privacy International's annual "Big Brother" awards, a dubious distinction meant to call attention to invaders of personal privacy.

Delta began testing an information technology infrastructure for the Transportation Security Administration's Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II last month, officials said.

CAPPS II would scan government and commercial databases for personal information that could indicate a traveler poses a threat.

The program is under siege from privacy groups, lawmakers and information experts, who argue that it could violate privacy protections, civil liberties and due process.

Privacy activist Bill Scannell, the force behind the successful boycott of Adobe Systems Inc. during a digital copyright trial in 2001, is shunning Delta and hopes others will do the same —— a stance promoted on a new Web site, BoycottDelta.org.

Critics have compared CAPPS II to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness program (TIA). In theory, TIA would enable national security analysts to detect, classify, track, understand and preempt terrorist attacks against the United States by drawing on surveillance and spotting patterns in public and private transactions.

Privacy International, an independent organization founded in 1990, tapped the program for another one of its four "Big Brother" awards.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin Management and Systems, which received from TSA in February a $12.8 million five-year task order to get CAPPS II off the ground, escaped the list.

Privacy International began handing out the awards five years ago to celebrate those public and private sector groups deemed "the invaders and champions of privacy."

The winners are selected by a judging panel, which this year included privacy advocate Jason Catlett, Free Congress Foundation Vice President Lisa Dean, American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen and Harper's Magazine editor Lewis Lapham.

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